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​Effective Workplace Communication that Reduces Coworker Conflict: Stop Reading Minds and Start Checking In

Posted by Daniel A. Feerst on

Is your coworker driving you nuts? If so, you may be making it worse by suspecting ulterior motives and hidden 

Helping to Effective Workplace Communication

meanings in what they do or say. Does this experience sound familiar? If it does, know that you’re not paranoid. This hypervigilance is explained by nothing more than stress and the “fight or flight” syndrome all of us experience when we feel threatened. Gaining control or at least having awareness over this phenomenon is in part, key to overcoming workplace conflicts.

As natural as your response is to your work nemesis, hypervigilance can get out of control and create a lot of dissatisfaction for you on the job. This pattern can be difficult to stop because it reinforces itself in a cycle. But with a few simple steps, you can intervene and break the cycle for good. 

Your first step is to sit down with your coworker and acknowledge the pattern of hypervigilance. This conversation can be as easy as saying, “Hey, Ashley, when you tell me that you’ll finish the work I’ve started, the way you say it causes me start wondering if I’ve done something incorrectly in approaching you about it. Just checking to see if there is anything going on between you and I right now that’s a problem.” 

This procedure is called “checking in.” Checking in seeks a more productive relationship by asking for clarification about the further meaning of any statement or behavior. If you were in a group therapy session with eight people, the group therapist would use the procedure often as a cohesion tactic. You might witness the therapist looking at one group member and asking, “Susan you seem quiet after Bill spoke regarding people’s spending habits. I am wonder if that triggered anything for you.” This technique draws honesty into a group, but you don’t need a therapist to practice the technique with your own relationship on the job. 

Once you’ve gotten clarification, you won’t experience misinterpretation or find the need to read anything into your coworker’s actions or statements. It can get irritating if you practice this “checking in” technique too much , but it is a powerful way to reduce stress and conflict in the workplace. 

Nipping hyper vigilant thoughts in the bud is important to helping you stay engaged and fulfilled at work. You will notice a tremendous impact on job satisfaction because you will discover that you are less stressed by issues going on around you. You’re less suspicion and more trusting of those on your team. 

The focus is on keeping relationships healthy. These communication skills will have spillover application to the relationship you also have with your boss, when speaking in a group, to an audience, and at home with your loved ones. 

Let your coworkers know that you are going to be using this strategy and ask if it would be helpful for them to understand you better by using checking.

You can learn more about communication at work and educate employees about improving communication by going here to see the PowerPoint, Video, DVD, or Web course in “Improving Your Communication Skills”

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